Thursday, May 11, 2006

The iMonk Discovers That There Is No One Who Seeks God

The iMonk points out that young people just aren't very interested in God. They don't seem to have a "God-sized hole" in their souls, or if they do they don't know it.

When I turned off the “Christian stream of consciousness” in my head and just listened to the young people I work with, it was quite obvious that most of them had no interest in God at all. I mean no interest in God at all apart from practical, pragmatic results in very “this worldly” matters. . . .

I do hear about God. I get those Bible questions and the questions that go along with a Christian school full of kids made to go to church and forced to adopt the values of their families. Occasionally someone will ask me about an unbelieving relative who has passed away, but I have never seen anyone truly disturbed about their own relationship with God or worried about what God thought of them. . . . there is almost no interest in spiritual things. The great majority of interest in “God” or “the Bible” or “religion” comes down to wanting to know how this might make life here and now more interesting, satisfying or pragmatically effective.

I don’t meet people concerned about sin, and my crowd hears about sin all the time. When I have question and answer sessions, I hear church kid questions and a bit of curiousity about this and that. I’ve begun to realize that when a Christian begins talking about a Biblical story or text, the vast majority of the people I know see these texts having absolutely no relevance to their lives at all. These are things Christians talk about. A Christian giving the meaning of a Bible passage is like a student of the red-winged woodpecker explaining its habitat and habits. If he/she weren’t making you think about it, you would never think about it.

In response, he makes the common Emerging church points about incarnational ministry. He knocks down the straw man of bait and switch ministries (Joe Photo and all that).

In response to his emerging points, let me make some of my (submerging?) points:

1) Well, what do you expect? They think they're going to live forever. They're kids, and the delusion of immortality is a prime part of youth. But somewhere, sometime, someone's going to have to tell them that they're going to die and at that moment. Puritans used to take kids to funerals and show them corpses. You can say that's morbid -- but how have you told kids about death?

2) And what else do you expect? If you don't preach the Law and sin to people, they aren't going to think they are sinners. Who tells them that? Whose function is it?

3) The whole point of original sin is We don't need God to be happy! That's what the Augsburg Confession and its Apology define as original sin: want of original righteousness shown by the fear, love, and trust in God.

Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence.

We, therefore, have been right in expressing, in our description of original sin, both namely, these defects: the not being able to believe God, the not being able to fear and love God; and, likewise: the having concupiscence, which seeks carnal things contrary to God's Word, i.e., seeks not only the pleasure of the body, but also carnal wisdom and righteousness, and, contemning God, trusts in these as good things.

4) So if people can be happy without God, how can we approach them? Well, by telling them that it is evil to be able to be happy without God. God is our creator and the creature has a moral obligation to love his creator. Let me ask you, what if you found a eight year old child living at home with a good mother and father who do all the things for that child that mothers and fathers do. And what if you found that this child was well-adjusted with his peers and seemed to be happy, but never spent any time thinking about his parents. Didn't want to talk to them, didn't feel any gratitude to them, didn't care about them in any way. Not hostile, just wholly and collossally indifferent. What would you think about such a child? I for one would think the child was a sociopath, a monster inside, and that the only question was to what degree the monstrosity will crack through the facade of social life. But even if it didn't, that would just mean the pathology was very well hidden.

God is our parent, our creator, and the author of all good things. We have a supreme moral obligation to love Him. To not feel the sense of that obligation is to be a monster.

We are all born as such moral monsters. Very pleasant monsters, with excellent manners, and a winsome attitude.

I don't know if telling people this is "effective evangelism". But at least it's true.

UPDATE: Go here and scroll down to the closing quote, where a Catholic theologian offers an apparently maximalist version of the idea "everyone seeks God."